While it’s common knowledge to avoid wasps and bees, a Texas child was sent to hospital after being stung by an unlikely culprit: a caterpillar.
“They said that she had been stung by the most poisonous caterpillar in the United States,” mom Lauren Chambers told NBCDFW.
Five-year-old Adrie reportedly was at daycare when she was stung by the caterpillar, which fell from a tree. She told staff that it felt like the bug was “stuck in her arm” — and began feeling a burning sensation. The staff discovered it was a Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar — with venomous spines buried under its hair — and acted quickly to remove it.
The child’s mom was shocked to learn these caterpillars exist in North America.
“How does that happen? We have those here in Texas? I mean I never even heard of those before yesterday,” said Chambers.
Texas A&M University Entomologist Michael Merchant says there have been more reports of these caterpillars this year than usual — but he’s not sure why. The insects can be found on various trees and plants common in North America.
There are also a number of ways these caterpillars affect humans, and it’s typically unpleasant, explained the expert.
“They’re common on a lot of trees and plants we have in North Texas… on oaks, yaupons, even rose bushes,” said Merchant.
“Different people react in different ways, feeling pain in different parts of the body. I had one friend who actually felt like he was having some heart trouble or something after he got stung. So it’s not a pleasant experience.”
The five-year-old’s bite was accompanied by pain, swelling and an upset stomach. Daycare teachers were quick to remove the spines from her arm with tape — a life-saving decision according to doctors.
“They said if that had not happened it could actually cause her whole body to go numb and start shutting down,” said Chambers.
The caterpillars should soon begin to prepare their cocoons for winter and once they hatch in the spring, they will no longer have their venomous spines, according to Merchant.